From a Salt Lake City landlord being shot, a Washington landlord being beaten to death after not renewing a lease, and a 71-year old New York City landlord being pushed down a flight of stairs to his death, tenant-landlord violence is not a rarity in the headlines. Volatile situations are quick to arise when tenants are unable to pay rent and their living situation is in jeopardy. While the overwhelming majority of tenants are non-violent, here are some safety tips for landlords you can use to protect yourself.
Screen Potential Tenants
The saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The same is true when selecting tenants. Doing an initial background check and tenant screening before a tenant even moves into your property can help to weed out potentially dangerous individuals. Background checks typically include employment history, driving record, credit scores, criminal history, and drug screenings. While it may cost you more initially, finding the right renters for your unit could save you from major problems further down the road.
Safely Show your Property
Before showing your property, get some basic identifying information from your prospective tenant, such as a copy of their driver’s license. Show properties during the day and keep your phone on you at all times. Leave the front door open during the showing. If there are multiple applicants, consider hosting it ‘open-house’ style or schedule appointments back-to-back and let your potential renter know that you’re expecting someone after their appointment.
Collect Rent Online
Online rent collection allows your renter to pay you at any time from anywhere. There is no need to meet up or exchange money in person. PayRent also will enable you to keep your financial information private and safe from fraud and identity theft.
Not only can collecting rent online reduce the risk of physical violence by limiting face-to-face encounters with your tenants, but it can also protect you from invisible threats like COVID-19. The World Health Organization recommended that all businesses handle checks and cash as little as possible and to implement contactless payment options.
Never Give out your Home Address
If you decide to accept paper checks as a form of payment, find a safe way to receive the checks. An office, lockbox, or P.O. Box are all safe choices. Don’t have rent checks sent directly to your house; you don’t want disgruntled renters knowing where you live. Keep a security camera on your lockbox and only check it during daylight hours.
Communicate often and well with your tenants so that no one is caught off-guard. When onboarding a new tenant, inform them of the best ways to communicate with you and then check your messages often. Problems that are left unchecked are more likely to become larger issues than if they were handled promptly.
Confront your Tenant Safely
Another safety tip for landlords is to contact your local police department for assistance if you have to do business with someone you think could harm you. Many police departments provide areas that are under surveillance for transactions such as custody exchanges or private online sales. Use these areas to accept payments or discuss terms of a lease that may be controversial. If you require assistance at your property, you can request a police officer to accompany you.